The 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment put Kansas City on the map, but not in a good way. For the last four years, the assessment has compiled national trends about drug usage and distribution throughout the United States. The maps featured in this year's assessment show Kansas City as one of the major routes for the distribution of illegal drugs.
David Barton is the director of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The program assists federal, state and local agencies to implement national drug control policy. KCUR's Susan B. Wilson sat down with Barton to talk about the assessment's findings. Barton says that the same things that make Kansas City a good place for commerce also make it a good place for drug trafficking.
"This city was established on commerce. It's because of the location, geography. Plus, rail and roads all come here to the center of the United States," Barton says. "It's easy to offload shipments here and then redistribute those shipments to other use areas in the metropolitan areas or around the region."
The maps featured in the assessment show heroin, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine all making their way through Kansas City. Barton says that drug traffickers are constantly coming up with new ways to distribute their products.
"They can be very creative in how they secret the product - hidden compartments galore," Barton says. "Anything you've seen on TV they've tried. It's amazing where these people put this stuff."
With the new data, Barton says agencies are better able to develop strategies to combat drug trafficking. This is important because Barton says there is a direct tie between crime and violence and illegal substances in the community. Although agencies are doing their best to interrupt the flow of drugs, Barton says the best way to solve the problem is to make drug usage less attractive.
"As long as we have a robust interstate transportation network in the United States that facilitates commerce that will also facilitate illegal commerce," Barton says. "Obviously, the solution to the reduction of the volume of narcotics is the reduction of demand and to eliminate the craving by some segments of this society for illegal substances."